Joel Mokyr

  • À la fin du XVIIIe siècle, une floraison d'inventions techniques a donné naissance à la Révolution industrielle et à la croissance économique régulière dont est issue la prospérité sans précédent d'aujourd'hui. Or, si le déroulement de cet épisode capital est désormais bien connu, ses origines demeurent mystérieuses. Pourquoi la Révolution industrielle s'est-elle produite en Occident et pas ailleurs ?
    La thèse de Joel Mokyr est qu'elle a été rendue possible par une culture de la croissance propre à l'Europe moderne et consacrée par les Lumières européennes. Les bases en ont été jetées dans la période 1500-1700, qui a vu les premières avancées scientifiques et techniques destinées à nourrir les développements explosifs de la suite. Elle a été favorisée par la fragmentation politique de l'Europe. Celle-ci a créé les conditions d'un "marché des idées" fonctionnant autour de la République des Lettres et assurant à la fois la protection des novateurs hétérodoxes et la circulation de leurs travaux.
    La comparaison avec la Chine achève de faire ressortir cette particularité européenne. En dépit de niveaux d'activité intellectuelle et technologique similaires, la version chinoise des Lumières est demeurée sous le contrôle de l'élite dirigeante, là où le polycentrisme européen a permis son expression indépendante.
    Combinant histoire économique, histoire des sciences et des techniques et histoire intellectuelle, Joel Mokyr montre, contre le préjugé selon lequel les idées ne sont que le reflet de l'infrastructure matérielle, comment la culture, les croyances, les valeurs ont été le facteur décisif de la transformation sociale.
    Un nouveau regard sur les racines de la modernité qui éclairera tous ceux qui s'interrogent sur la place que l'économie a prise dans notre monde.

  • Why did Western countries become so much wealthier than the rest of the world? What explains the huge rise in incomes during the Industrial Revolution - and why did Britain lead the way?

    In the years between the Glorious Revolution and the Great Exhibition, the British economy was transformed. Joel Mokyr's landmark history offers a wholly new perspective for understanding Britain's extraordinary rise during the Industrial Revolution, showing how intellectual, rather than material, forces were the driving force behind it. While empire, trade, resources and other factors all played a part, above all it was the creative ferment of the Enlightenment - with its belief in progress and scientific advancement - that affected the economic behaviour of thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs and artisans, taking Britain into the modern era.

    Linking ideas and beliefs to the heart of modern economic growth, The Enlightened Economy will transform the way we view the Industrial Revolution.

  • In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation?
    Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classical world, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developments associated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution.
    What were the causes of technological creativity? Mokyr distinguishes between the relationship of inventors and their physical environment--which determined their willingness to challenge nature--and the social environment, which determined the openness to new ideas. He discusses a long list of such factors, showing how they interact to help or hinder a nation's creativity, and then illustrates them by a number of detailed comparative studies, examining the differences between Europe and China, between classical antiquity and medieval Europe, and between Britain and the rest of Europe during the industrial revolution. He examines such aspects as the role of the state (the Chinese gave up a millennium-wide lead in shipping to the Europeans, for example, when an Emperor banned large ocean-going vessels), the impact of science, as well as religion, politics, and even nutrition. He questions the importance of such commonly-cited factors as the spill-over benefits of war, the abundance of natural resources, life expectancy, and labor costs.
    Today, an ever greater number of industrial economies are competing in the global market, locked in a struggle that revolves around technological ingenuity. The Lever of Riches, with its keen analysis derived from a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offers telling insights into the question of how Western economies can maintain, and developing nations can unlock, their creative potential.

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